They are denied same benefits as government-run schools in southern Tamil Nadu state
Indian school children attending a government school line-up for the mid-day meal outside their classrooms near lavatories in Bangalore on July 19, 2013. In Tamil Nadu state, meals and education benefits are denied to students at schools run by Christians and other private groups, says the Committee for Redeeming Rights of Minority and Non-Minority Government-Aided Schools. (Photo: AFP)
Christians in a southern Indian state have urged the provincial government to end discriminatory education policies that adversely impact Christian-run schools receiving state funds.
The Christian community runs around 6,000 of the estimated 8,403 schools in Tamil Nadu that receive government aid, and hence are referred to as “aided schools.”
“Most of them are in villages where the government is unable to provide education for want of infrastructure,” said Father Antonysamy Solomon, secretary of the education commission of Tamil Nadu Bishops Council (TNBC).
He said the roughly 6,000 schools, which include close to 2,500 Catholic schools, have played a pioneering role in educating several generations in Tamil Nadu for more than a century.
“The government agreed to provide aid because of the community’s contributions. But it is discriminating against us and favoring only government schools now,” Father Solomon said.
The state government provides breakfast for students in primary schools run by it. Students passing out from the 37,211 government schools also benefit from a 7.50 percent special quota in admissions to higher education courses like medical and engineering.
A monthly stipend of 1,000 rupees (US$12) has been announced recently for female students from government schools to help them pursue higher education.
“The same privileges are not extended to students from our schools,” said Father John Kennedy, education coordinator at the Madhurai province of the Society of Jesus.
There are many clauses in the state’s New Education Policy 2018 that are against the interests of minority-run and other aided institutions, he said.
“We have urged the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party to take immediate steps to end the discrimination,” Kennedy added.
The Jesuit priest, who is part of the Committee for Redeeming Rights of Minority and Non-Minority Government-Aided Schools, told UCA News that the organization had called a conference to voice its concerns, at St. Joseph’s College in Tiruchi on Sept 28.
Kennedy said they have invited leaders from all political parties and will continue the struggle for the benefit of its students.
Father Solomon said, “Discrimination should end as it is not good for the future of students.”
He said if the government failed to take corrective steps it would be difficult for aided schools including those run by Christians to continue their operations.
Aided schools, though owned and run privately by church institutions and others, follow the rules and regulations of government including the curriculum, study materials and examinations, etc. The fee structure and recruitment of staff are according to the rules formulated by the government.
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